We “discovered” this monastery at Padula for the first time this Spring; we were looking to take a relaxing day trip – one that would be a fairly short (an hour and a half or less) and simple drive from our home in Calitri.
The drive out to the Cliento National Park near Salerno is spectacular – snow-capped mountains and lush greenery. I think we’d have probably been delighted with just the drive (even though the day we picked was, unfortunately, overcast and not the usual, idyllic, sunny Southern Italy) , but the San Lorenzo monastery was certainly, unexpectedly, impressive and well worth a visit! (The monastery was opened to the public in 1982 and is now a National Monument and World Heritage Site)
The Certosa di San Lorenzo at Padula in Southern Italy is the second largest Carthusian Monastery in Italy (the largest is in Parma). Dedicated to St. Lawrence, it was first founded in 1306; the structure’s history spans over 450 years with the main portions constructed on the Baroque style. It is huge – 320 rooms and halls – and includes the world’s largest cloister (almost 3 acres surrounded by 84 columns).
According to the very strict Carthusian rules between meditation/prayer and work, there are very distinct spaces within the San Lorenzo complex: the cloisters, the library (with a Vietri ceramic floor), the ornate chapels, the cloister gardens, and the large kitchen (legend has it that an omelet made of one thousand eggs was once cooked there for a visiting Charles V), the cellars with wine storage, the laundry, and the courtyards, where there were people working at stables, ovens, and an olive oil mill. the exterior courtyards were worked by the novices, where they traded goods with the outside world.
The San Lorenzo Monastery is also home to the very modern archaeological museum of Western Lucania, where you can see an impressive collection of finds found at the local sites of Sala Consilina and Padula. (Museum admission is included in the very modest entrance fee to the monastery).